ANN ARBOR, Mich. — In his first five games as Washington football’s head coach, Jimmy Lake started with a three-game winning streak, sustained a season-ending COVID outbreak, earned an arguably illegitimate division title, watched key in-state recruits commit to Ohio State and led a highly touted team into its worst loss in program history.
Before the Huskies left for Ann Arbor, Michigan, outside linebacker Ryan Bowman still had faith.
“I think guys have a lot of intensity in their eyes,” Bowman said on Wednesday, four days after dropping a 13-7 season opener to Montana. “There’s nobody else we’d rather play for than coach Lake. He’s the best leader we could have, especially in a moment like this.
“We have great guys in this facility, in this program. So there’s not a team we’d rather be with, with better leaders, that are going to be more prepared for the next opponent. What happened, happened. I wouldn’t rather be with a different crew of guys to get to the next opponent.”
The next opponent, in this case, was Michigan — which rushed for 343 yards, 6.1 yards per carry and four rushing touchdowns in a 31-10 win over Washington on Saturday night.
At “The Big House,” in front of more than 100,000 fans, Lake faced — and failed — his most legitimate test yet.
But he still seems to have the support of the Husky players.
“I think we’re a very strong and tight-knit group,” UW cornerback Trent McDuffie said. “I think, compared to many years in the past, we (definitely have) something that I can see is very special.”
The Zion Tupuola-Fetui factor
Zion Tupuola-Fetui’s absence was felt last Saturday.
Without Washington’s All-American outside linebacker, the Huskies managed just five tackles for loss and one sack in the Montana loss.
But according to Lake, the Husky pass rush was better than it appeared on paper.
“I think, of course we want more sacks,” he said last week. “But I also attribute … they had three, almost four holding calls on our pass rush, and almost all of them were on Ryan Bowman. So, we were getting some good pass rush, but they were holding them. So, again, you have to look at that as well.”
Malloe — UW’s co-defensive coordinator and outside linebackers coach — looked at all of it.
And he concluded that an outside linebacker rotation consisting of Bowman, Cooper McDonald, Sav’ell Smalls, Bralen Trice, Jeremiah Martin and Jordan Lolohea missed six potential sacks.
“There was a lot of missed opportunities in every room, especially my room,” he said. “When we look back in hindsight it was like, ‘Man, I was that close. Man, I was almost there.’ We don’t have the luxury of doing those things when we’re playing Montana or Michigan.”
Malloe was proven right, as UW failed to produce a sack and added just three tackles for loss on Saturday.
The Giles Jackson return game
After playing his first two seasons at Michigan, UW wide receiver Giles Jackson returned to “The Big House” on Saturday.
The 5-foot-9, 185-pound sophomore did so after recording four catches for 15 yards against Montana. He added three catches for 49 yards, nine rushing yards and 11 kick return yards on Saturday
“All I know is, I’m very happy that Giles is here,” Lake said prior to the Michigan game. “What he’s done is he’s bought into our culture. He’s an extremely hard worker. We believe he’s given us an added boost in the return game and at wide receiver. He’s going to get better from here.”
He’ll hopefully help the Husky return game as well, after recording a pair of kick-return touchdowns in his two seasons at Michigan. Jackson split those duties with running back Cameron Davis last week and contributed two kick returns for 38 yards.
“We’re happy with Giles (in the return game),” said UW special-teams coordinator Keith Bhonapha. “We think he’s a game-breaker. And I think the same thing with Cam. If he gets a chance to get some space I think there’s some opportunity there, because he’s a fast, physical kid. So it’s just exciting to give both those guys a chance to work.”
McGrew missing again
UW sixth-year running back Sean McGrew suited up but did not play on Saturday for the second consecutive week. Instead, Husky running backs Richard Newton and Cameron Davis combined for 46 rushing yards and 2.2 yards per carry.
“Playing time is always earned in practice,” Lake said, when asked about McGrew’s absence. “Throughout spring football and training camp and our practices, those are the two guys (Newton and Davis) that we’ve leaned on for the first couple weeks. That could always change. That could always change. But right now, those are our two top running backs and those are the guys who received the carries.”
- The Michigan matchup was UW’s first road game in 658 days, the longest gap in the FBS.
- After not playing against Montana and being listed as week-to-week, UW wide receivers Terrell Bynum and Jalen McMillan traveled, dressed and warmed up on Saturday … but Taj Davis and Giles Jackson started for the second consecutive game. Bynum and McMillan both played, and Bynum broke out to the tune of five catches for 115 yards and a touchdown. He said after the game that “I felt pretty good. I don’t think I’m fully healthy yet, but I’m good enough (to play).” Rome Odunze — another starting wide receiver who was listed as week-to-week — did not appear to be present.
- Junior Alex Cook got the start beside Julius Irvin at safety on Saturday, after Kamren Fabiculanan earned those honors against Montana.
- Redshirt freshman Jacob Bandes made his first career start against Michigan, in a set with three defensive linemen that also included sophomores Tuli Letuligasenoa and Sam Taimani.